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Safari at Minneriya national park Sri Lanka

In Sri Lanka there is no better place to watch elephants in wild than Minneriya National Park. Located roughly midway between the Habarana junction and the ancient 10th century ruins of Polonnaruwa on the A11 road, Minneriya was a favorite haunt of enterprising tour guides long before it was officially declared a National Park in 1988. Minneriya tank is the main source of water for the animals in the park and Giritale tank, which is smaller than Minneriya take also supply the water to animals in the park. Minneriya national park with extent of 7529 hectares provides one of the best habitats in the region for elephants. Abundance of plants and trees that elephants depend on and Minneriya and Giritale reservoirs fulfill the basic requirement of elephants.

A Sri Lankan elephant (Elephus maximus maximus) is an intelligent and vey social animal. It has been able to attract the attention of wildlife enthusiast from all around the world. It is truly impossible not to be impressed with the sheer bulk of a fully grown adult, but equally extraordinary from the point of view of an onlooker is the network of complex social interaction that characterize a herd of the subtle dexterity with which an individual might wield its trunk while nimbly browsing. That's apart from the delightfully clumsy movements of a fuzzy month-old baby or the swaggering gait and sonorous rumbling of a musthing bull as he tries to cut a targeted cow from the herd mate.

The natural cycle for the elephants of the region sees them travel in small herds of 10 to 20 during the wet season, feeding on the lush vegetation brought out by the rains. These scattered groups start to coalesce as the year wears on and the ponds and smaller tanks disappear. As the mighty Minneriya tank remains throughout the season, it is here the disparate herdís journey, meeting up with each other to form larger, loose-knit associations. Eventually, when the dry season is at its apex, a daily ritual unfolds whereby all the elephants in the area gravitate to the grassy plains exposed by the receding waters of the tank.

While elephants are the main attraction at Minneriya, the park is worth a visit for more than just its elephants. A wide variety of water birds enjoy the bountiful harvest provided by the rich aquatic ecosystem. Beautiful multi colored painted stork (Mycteria leucocephala), grey herons (Ardea cinerea), and the diminutive ruddy turnstone (arenaria interpres) are occuring here often. Large gathering of little cormorant (Phalacrocorax niger) is a very common sight here, these herds are surpass more than 1000 birds in some occasions. Pelican is also a very common aquatic bird species here, which also gather here in great numbers.

At one time the Asian elephant roamed the entire island from the lofty heights of Horton'sPlains to the sun-kissed coastal waters that greet the land and all points of the compass. For the last several decades the elephant population in Minneriya and surrounding area is considerably reduced owing to many reasons such as habitat loss, conflict with humans over agriculture land, war and poaching. In the early days elephants were recorded in some parts of the central mountain range, but due to the deforestation, they are completely wiped out from their habitat in the higher elevated areas in the country. Today elephants are entirely restricted to low-land dry-zone forested areas, it is only a doomed handful of elephants that still tread the odd up-country forest paths at Sinharaja, Peak Wilderness and the area around Matale.

Even though Sri Lanka is a small country, it is endowed with large number of animal species. Despite its small size Sri Lanka has been able to manage a healthy population of animal such as Elephants that need large space to survive. Minneriya national park is connected with Eco-park, Kaudulla national park, Somawathiya national park, flood plains and Wasgamuwa making huge tract of forested area for elephants. At the same time this is the centre of what some of the most intensively famed is and productive paddy land in the country. Sri Lanka has gained a moderate success in the effort of keeping the balance of agricultural development and preserving the natural habitat of wild animals.